Construction industry workers have claimed £10.36 billion from the government’s self-employment income support scheme since last March, according to new data from HMRC. The construction industry accounted for nearly six times more than the transport and warehousing sector, the next highest claiming, as of 6 June 2021. Claims in the construction industry have received more than 40 per cent of the £25.25 billion in grants to date. The high level of claimants partly reflects the large number of self-employed workers in the industry. The latest data showed that construction claimants received £168m in new grants in the previous month. Critics have pointed out that grants prevent the self-employed from looking for new jobs, leading to labor shortages. Nathan Raven, head of interiors at the Lignum Group that provides recruitment services, said grants aren’t thought to be a major contributor to the labor shortage: “I don’t think we’re seeing a huge impact, certainly not in really high-skill roles, because these guys are getting On £200 a day, some of them. All grants are well and good, but it’s only about 60 per cent of what they get home, or even less.” Raven suggested that the availability of grants might make a difference for those in lower-skill, lower-paid roles. But he added that the shortage of this type of labor is believed to be caused by other factors. “In our view, the Eastern European workers who have returned home are certainly the cause of the real problem,” he said. “Guys who picked up sticks and left because of COVID or Brexit and probably won’t come back, this is where we get in the most trouble. The idea of grants causing so much trouble is really not something that was recommended to us at all.” Job vacancies in the construction industry reached a 20-year high in May, according to the Office for National Statistics. So far there have been four batches of the program, with applications open for the fifth batch at the end of the month. Fred Hicks, Senior Policy and Communications Adviser at the Association of Independent and Self-Employed Professionals (IPSE), said the data showed why it needed to continue: “The latest SEISS data from HMRC shows how important the system is to freelancers around the world. Especially in the UK, especially in the UK. Basic self-employment industries such as construction.” Hicks called on the government to carefully consider any restrictions on future claimants before introducing the fifth installment. New data on furlough claims by companies also released showed that the number of construction employees on furlough had fallen to 139,200 at the end of May. It represents the lowest number of workers on vacation since the end of October last year.